Another delay of its mobile reading service is raising questions about whether China Telecom will carry through with it, despite the success of an e-reader service at its biggest competitor, China Mobile.
The service had previously been planned for launch at the end of April, then postponed until June, and now again to late July. Insiders indicated the project hasn't been cancelled; only that content is not yet ready for launch.
Rival China Mobile launched its online digital publication platform at the beginning of May, having spent nearly a year preparing for it. The platform works in a similar way to Apple's iBook store and gives users wireless access to a wealth of different online publications such as e-books, comics, magazines, and periodicals. It will ultimately support all handset and tablet form factors, including Apple's iPad.
Gao Nianshu, general manager of China Mobile's data department said "reading habits have fundamentally changed" and expects the new platform to attract more than 200 million users within a relatively short space of time.
China's Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) has released figures showing that, of a total of 780 million mobile phone users, more than 155 million of them read digital publications on their handsets, and demand is increasing exponentially.
China Mobile currently has about 40% of the country's best sellers available for download and attracted more than 15 million users during its four-month trial period. Companies including Hanwang, Founder, Datang, Huawei, and Nokia have released products that support China Mobile's service. It was reported in May that China Mobile has plans to team up with Taiwanese electronics giant Foxconn to produce its own e-book reader.
China Unicom also has plans for a digital publishing marketplace and is setting up an office in Guangdong dedicated to this. China Telecom needs to overcome the recent delays if it wishes to be taken seriously in this market.
Despite the delay, China Telecom has signed a strategic cooperation agreement with the Press and Publication Administration so the launch should not be too far off. China Telecom is also working on a platform which will create 1,000 different types of mobile applications including games, redesigns of popular websites, and social networking clients.